March 14, 2013

Assumption Finally Has 'Complete Team'

by Mark Macyk |

Lindsay Hagerman has 11 goals, good for second in scoring for Assumption.
© Assumption

It would have been easy to write off Assumption to another season in the Northeast-10’s cellar, but then you’d be making assumptions before knowing all the facts. The truth is, these Greyhounds already established a championship pedigree in the fall when they became intramural floor hockey champions.

Their lacrosse coach wasn’t present for the victory but she did wish them well and advised them not to get hurt.

"I got a text picture of them in their championship shirts,” Assumption coach Abbey Capobianco said. “If that’s what makes them happy...”

It’s all part of the plan for Capobianco, who’s letting her team have its fun off the lacrosse field, while taking its game seriously on it. It’s different from 2011, when Capobianco took over a squad that had just finished 11th in the then 12-team Northeast-10 and, among other hurdles, sometimes had to deal with players asking out of in-season practices for intramurals.

Less than three years later, the Greyhounds are 4-0 and one of only two undefeated teams remaining in the ultra-competitive NE-10. In their opener they beat Merrimack for the first time ever. On Wednesday they handed Queens (N.Y.) its first loss of the season, 15-14, in overtime.

“They’ve seen the hard work pay off,” Capobianco said. “It’s a complete focus on the little things: the extra wall ball, the extra this, the extra that, putting all those pieces together.”

Building those pieces took some time.

When Capobianco interviewed with Assumption after spending one season as an assistant at Bentley, she did it more for practice than anything else. She didn’t think the team, which had won two games in each of the previous three season, and zero games the year before that, would hire a 22-year-old with little coaching experience.

“Now I joke with my AD that he must have really had no other option,” Capobianco said. “But I was actually really excited about it. When we played them at Bentley I saw that they were athletic and I thought it was a waste of talent.”

Assumption finished second in the NE-10 in 2002 and fifth as recently as 2004. But in 2005, the year Stonehill won the NCAA title, Assumption placed eighth. Then 11th. Then ninth, ninth and 10th.

With results like that, Assumption wasn't just a rebuilding project. It almost needed to start from scratch. That’s what Capobianco sold to recruits: the opportunity to build something new. It’s working.

After that first season, about 10 players left the team, because it (quite literally) wasn’t what they signed up for. One player that didn’t leave was Erin Theriault, who graduated seventh on Assumption’s all-time scoring list, and still hasn’t left. She’s currently in her second season as an assistant coach and, with fellow assistant EJ Kluge and Capobianco, have helped build a new team identity.

A core of younger players also stayed and today makes up the team’s upperclass backbone: seniors Michelle Santos, Steph O’Rourke and Caitlin White; and juniors Kathryn Beall, Lindsay Hagerman, Nancy McAdam, Mary Guinee and Michelle Monahan.

Assumption took on all kinds of players. O’Rourke started every game before and after Capobianco arrived, and scored 32 and 33 goals in the last two seasons.

Santos had been cut from the team as a freshman in 2010. When Capobianco was brought on, Santos reached out via email and asked to re-join the team.

“I’m thinking how do you get cut from a team that was 1-15?” Capobianco said.

Santos ended up leading the team in scoring that season. She’s started every game since.

White was the opposite. She started nine games as a freshman, but just four the year after. This season she’s emerged as a vocal leader and has appeared in every game off the bench and scored two goals.

Beall joins the three seniors as a junior captain.

The older players laid a foundation and changed the trajectory. How high that trajectory goes will depend on Assumption’s 16 freshmen and sophomores. 

Sophomore Amy McNeill scored 56 goals last year, second-most in program history. She’s on pace to shatter that mark this year, with 24 goals, and leads Division II in goals per game through Monday. She’s also delivered two game-winners and has caused six turnovers.

Classmate Allison Tivnan leads the defense, and consistently draws opponents best players and has 13 ground balls, four draw controls and five caused turnovers. Tivnan highlights a revamped defense that starts two sophomores and two freshman and is finally where Assumption wants it to be.

Conditioning, offense, defense. The final only phase left in Assumption’s ascension was building a bench. In the season-opener, Merrimack rallied back in the middle of the second half, but the bench spurred the Greyhounds to hold on. It was spring break and no students were on campus. The cheers of support came from the sideline.

“They were awesome,” Capobianco said. “We have a complete team. Finally.”

A complete team in one of the most complete conferences in the country. NE-10 teams currently occupy five spots in the Top 15.

“Our goal is to make it to the playoffs,” Capobianco said. “If we’re in the playoffs then we have a shot at the NCAAs. When you say it out loud they see that it’s absolutely possible.”

It's true. Just ask the other floor hockey teams.

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